What parents of college students need to know about meningitis

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 4:50 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - It’s that time of the school year where teens and young adults are counting down the days to the holidays and a much-needed break from classes. In 2008, Jamie was a college freshman getting ready to complete her first semester and head home for the holidays when her life changed forever. In just 24 hours, she went from being a healthy college student to fighting for her life after contracting meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis. Jamie spent seven months in the hospital, ultimately losing both of her legs below the knees, and all of her fingers due to the disease. While many colleges require MenACWY vaccination, MenB vaccination has only been available since 2014, and most colleges still do not require it. She is sharing her story to ensure that parents are aware there are two different types of vaccines to help prevent meningitis – one for MenACWY, and one for MenB, to help other families avoid her experience.

Jamie joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 on Tuesday along with GSK vaccine expert, Dr. Len Friedland. He said during the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for parents to educate themselves and utilize the vaccines available to help protect their kids against vaccine-preventable diseases they may be at risk for, like meningitis.


  • Meningitis is an uncommon, but serious illness that can cause life-threatening complications, or even death. Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of the flu, but can progress quickly and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.
  • Up to 1 in 5 meningitis survivors suffer long-term consequences, such as brain damage, amputations, hearing loss and nervous system problems. Among those who contract meningitis, 1 in 10 will die, despite treatment, sometimes in as little as 24 hours.
  • Teens and young adults are at an increased risk for contracting meningitis because it can spread through certain common behaviors such as living in close quarters like college dorms, kissing, and sharing drinks, utensils, or smoking devices.
  • From 2011 through March 2019, meningitis B (MenB) caused all US college meningococcal outbreaks, which involved 13 campuses, 50 cases and two deaths among an at-risk population of approximately 253,000 students.


· Even if your college-aged children are not attending in-person classes due to COVID-19 precautions, they may still be at risk for diseases like MenB.

· Your teen or young adult may have received MenACWY vaccination when they were younger, but most have not yet received MenB vaccination, which only became available in 2014. Recent CDC data show that still, only about 1 in 5 17-year-olds in the U.S. received at least one dose of MenB vaccination in 2019.

· Winter break is a good time to schedule a wellness visit and talk to your child’s doctor about the two different types of vaccines to help prevent meningococcal disease – one for MenACWY and one for MenB.

Visit www.meningitisB.com for more information and resources to bring to your child’s next wellness visit.

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